Candlelight vigil to mark 10th anniversary of Matthew Shepard’s murder

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

Ten years ago, all across the world, people kept vigil for a teenager who had been viciously attacked because he was gay.

They lit candles and said prayers for Matthew Shepard, but their intercessions could not save him.

The foundation set up in his memory has organised a public remembrance in Minneapolis.

“Ten years ago more than 1,100 of us gathered in Minneapolis and joined thousands of others around the world in candlelight vigils,” said John Sullivan, a member of the Matthew Shepard Foundation Advisory Board.

The foundation was created by Dennis and Judy Shepard in memory of their 21-year old son, who was murdered in an anti-gay hate crime in Wyoming in October 1998.

Aaron James McKinney  and Russell Arthur Henderson are both serving life in prison for his murder.

“Together, we waited and hoped that Matthew would survive the brutal beating that ultimately caused his death.

“We are honoured that Judy Shepard, Matthew’s mother, chose to observe this significant date with us in Minneapolis.

“We’ll gather again, in a vigil marked by candlelight, words and music. Then, we’ll proceed to The Woman’s Club for the reading of The Laramie Project.”

The play recounts the shock and confusion the citizens of Laramie, Wyoming, felt after hearing the details of Matthew’s assault and reflects the community’s strong desire to move forward after this tragedy.

Matthew’s murder was a watershed moment in the perceptions of LGBT people in America.

Then-President Bill Clinton tried to extend federal hate crime legislation to include gay and lesbian people in the aftermath of his death, but ultimately was defeated by Congress.

In May the US House of Representatives passed the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act with a strong bipartisan vote of 237-180.

The Senate approved the nearly-identical Matthew Shepard Act as an amendment to the Department of Defence Authorisation bill on a voice vote.

President Bush had indicated he would use his veto to block any attempt to extend federal hate crimes laws to LGBT people.

The hate crimes provisions had been attached to a defence spending bill, but was dropped by the Senate because it could not attract enough support.

Next month’s candlelight ceremony is free and open to the public.

Tickets for the reading of The Laramie Project at The Woman’s Club are $100 (main floor and front balcony) and $65 (rear balcony), all general seating.

To purchase tickets, contact Warren Greene, Operations Director at The Matthew Shepard Foundation: 303.830.7400, ext. 11 or email [email protected].